Saturday, February 4, 2017

A year of growth

I love the blog, books, and podcast from Gretchen Rubin. She recently quoted Yeats on her blog, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

I'm in year 5 of teaching (with 4 years before that of being an assistant teacher abroad) and this year has been a year of growth. I've gone to my state conference - KWLA - and to ACTFL. I always come home with great ideas from conference but this year I've found additional ways to stretch and grow as a teacher.

Observe other teachers/Let other teachers observe you

- Our district has started a program where they pay for subs so teachers can go and observe each other for half a day. I've had two different teachers come in and watch me teach and it's interesting to hear what others are struggling with and looking for when they come and observe. Having someone in my room always makes me put forth my best effort and I find myself remembering to do things I often let go. I tend to keep doing these things even when the other teacher has left. And getting a glow sheet at the end is a good self-esteem boost since I often focus on what I'm not doing right rather on what I do well. 

- I didn't go and observe another WL teacher in my district. Instead I watched 4 different teachers in my own building, seeing how they taught content. We have a 30 year veteran in our building who is a Kagan machine. Every kid was engaged in deep discussions while I was in there. It was inspiring to watch. I'm now adding more and more Kagan structures to each class to my students' delight. I also realized I'm pretty lax about talking about the learning targets while every teacher I observed went over them. Guess what I'm doing now... 

Embrace the parts of the bureaucracy that make you better

- I know it sounds crazy and I get that most people despise all of the paper work that distract teachers from actual teaching but I've always ended up improving my teaching practice because of these accountability measures. They are meant well and if you focus on what they're trying to get you to do they actually can make a difference. Recently our new superintendent mandated that we have to start submitting "High Yield" lesson plans. Our principal told us she would be looking specifically to make sure that our formative assessments matched our learning targets. Guess who spent an hour revising her learning targets... 

Get involved

- It's hard to be a department of one so by getting involved I have created  network of teachers who  have supported and challenged me. I've been the NNELL-KY rep for the last 2 years and also serve on the KWLA board. I'm on my district curriculum development team. I have people who will ask me the tough questions, who argue with me, and also encourage me. A recent argument about assessment and how to collect data effectively on 500+ students has led me to rethink what I'm doing and how I can do it differently. Guess who has already gathered more data than she thought possible... 

So to summarize, in the last few weeks I've been more deliberate in making sure my learning targets match my assessments, communicating those targets to my students, and actually tracking more of the assessment data so I can definitively show proficiency growth. These are all things I knew to do but struggled to actually pull off.

Watching how other people did it, being forced to think about it because of a new lesson plan structure, and arguing about it with a trusted colleague - THIS is how I've put what I've learned in theory into practice. I always keep in mind how Helena Curtain ended a workshop I attended. After presenting tons of information and strategies she reminded us that we get better, "one baby step at a time."

What do you do to grow as a teacher? Share in the comments below!

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